Tuesday, July 23, 2013


For historians of the Church, of the web, of familial relations and of communications in general, this was the week that the mom of our family employed a daring but seldom-used gambit: The Anti-Letter.

Borne of weeks of frustration at the lack of real information coming from this site’s namesake, Berta’s letter dared go where few moms’ have. Readers might think it too sparse, lacking in emotion or connection, even skimping on basic affection and love.

All of these assumptions are true.

But it was not with levity that Berta undertook such undertakings—nay, it was only upon sharing the lament with another missionary mom who had passed through a similar circumstance that Berta learned of the possibility—and the power—of The Anti-Letter.

Behold the Mom missive launched this morning:
Your grey suit is too hipster, but I will send your brown shoes. Crazy changes, huh? 
Our discussion with [an investigator] was cool. The Church is true. 
It’s been pretty hot here. 
So you’ve seen some Hutterites? Interesting. 
That’s cool that you did some service. I’m glad you didn’t fall off of that steep roof. 
Glad to hear you are writing in your journal. You won’t regret it. 
President Manion is a good guy? That should be really helpful.  
Well, I’m really busy serving and stuff, so I’ll catch you later.

Keep serving and stay tough,
Oh, the humanity. Sadly, the length, depth and tone very nearly mirror the boy’s own tendencies.

One need be only minimally acquainted with Berta to appreciate the pain she endured to make such a pointed point. “I must cut short my usual 2,500 words,” she may have told herself. “It is for the greater good.” (One imagines a stifled sob.)

Elder Eli’s letter, received only hours after he would have read Berta’s, does seem to reflect a change in messaging:

Hello all!

It’s been a great week. Tons of service. We’ve moved three people in the last week-and-a-half. Earlier today we helped a member start to re-shingle his roof (removing and replacing, a much bigger job than my previous experience). We’re going back tomorrow to help him finish up, then we’re moving someone else in the afternoon.

Between that, we’re still doing missionary work. Finding some solid investigators, making some progress with current ones. Sadly, last week our most promising investigator dropped us flat. We had a wonderful, moving lesson. The Spirit was there, she cried multiple times. The next day, she called us, and right after she asked how I was doing she just told me she wasn’t interested at all anymore. We stopped by and tried talking to her, but she really just didn’t want to learn anymore. So tragic. But, the church is still true and the work will go forth.

Funny story: There are a lot of people here I can’t really relate to. Lots of farmers, rig workers, and manual laborers. I’m not opposed to manual labor, nor do I have anything against those who make their living from it—but at the same time there isn’t much we have in common. I like words and language, and many of the people here don’t interest themselves with things like that. 
We went out to supper with a member, Brother Mackenzie (no relation to Bob and Doug). We were talking about high school, and he was talking about how sometimes he would skip his short day. He basically said this: “Yeah, you know, we had Fridays as short days, so a lot of the time we’d just skip. You know, go shoot gophers.” In Sandy, Utah, if we skip school, we don’t typically shoot gophers. So, naturally, I heard the same thing but thought it was something else. I asked for clarification and said, “Wait, ‘Goshute Gophers’?” 
“Yeah,” said Brother Mackenzie. 
I thought his school name was Goshute, like we were the Alta Hawks. I continued, “That’s weird, because the Goshutes are an Indian tribe. So you had the school name ‘Goshute’ and your mascot was the Gophers?” 
“No. . . We’d go and shoot gophers. You’re too smart, Elder.” 
I can assure you, I did not feel smart. I’m coming to realize that people may not have the same interests as I. We’ll be at a supper and someone will say something like “steal my thunder” or “pull out all the stops,” and I’ll jump in and say, “Fun fact: The phrase ‘steal my thunder’ actually comes from...” and I’ll launch into the origins of the saying. Some appreciate it, but I think some are just polite. Whatevs. Haters gonna hate.

The work is great. I’m tired all of the time. But I’m happy. Thank you for your prayers and support. The Church is true.

Keep the faith,
Elder Webb
Yep, that’s what we’ve been lookin’ for. Way to go, Mom. And thanks, Son.

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